Review: Outlaw League

The sports film, it would seem, is one of the subgenres that’s most constrained by its tropes in all of cinema. Usually, a lot of hinges on the result of the game or a season. As there are only so many ways an athletic event can end that’s where the limitation of options begins. Things get a bit more unique when the competition, and the result thereof, are an afterthought and not the biggest thing.

The synopsis as provided by Attraction Distribution is as follows:

Nicolas, 12 years old, son and grandson of fishermen, lives alone with his mother in a village overlooking the sea. A terrible storm snatched his dad a few earlier. Summer vacation is the chance for Nicolas to resume his greatest pleasure: playing baseball with his friends. But a major obstacle greets the kids who assemble at the village baseball field: the town council has decided to convert the field into a municipal dump. With Nicolas as their leader, the village kids will resist the mayor’s machinations with ferocity and, to their surprise, they will receive the support of Nicolas’ grandfather and his old buddies.

In this guise the film is really as simplified as it could get: it’s really only about playing for the love of the game and that becomes paramount. The game that the kids have to win just becomes a means to an end. It’s about them being allowed to be played, satisfying the need the kids have while satisfying the adult concerns with the well-being of the town. This simplicity is enviable inasmuch as it strips most of the sports film encumbrances out of the the film.

The issues only come in to play because there’s not much else brought into it to fill the void that those clichés usually occupy. In fact, aside from the main conflict (finding a suitable playing field and being allowed to play) there’s really only one subplot that ends up being significant: Nicholas’ relationship with his grandfather and mending fences in the family he has left. The amassing of the few new friends is treated by the film as little more token scenes needed to round-out a starting nine.

With an uncomplicated plot, and a short running time, one would hope that the film would move briskly but it doesn’t so much. The film does end up feeling a bit longer than it really does. The must-win game being introduced late is good but it is rendered anticlimactic by its treatment.

The film has its enjoyable qualities, Nicholas’ relationship with his Grandfather, Nicholas’ imaginary conversations with his father, and the performance by André Kasper as the young lead.

If one is a huge baseball fan it’s definitely worth looking into, children who may not be as discerning, and can also deal with some adult themes can find enjoyment in it. The simplicity of the film could’ve yielded more but it is a fairly realistic treatment of young characters and love for sport that would likely find an audience.

5/10

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